By Leah Hughes
When the temperature rises, Charlotteans cool down with trips to the lake or the water park. From action-packed adventures, such as water skiing on Lake Norman or riding the slides at Carowinds to relaxing retreats such as floating around a lazy river or savoring a dinner cruise, the guide below will help you plan your summer water experience.
All About the Action
The U.S. National Whitewater Center has a variety of watersports that cover all ages and skill levels. For the entire family, go for the Family Rafting option. The relaxed environment is intended for younger participants and first timers. Action-seekers should try Adventure Rafting—the most popular whitewater activity—or the advanced Rodeo Rafting trip. The Whitewater Center is located on the Catawba River and offers scenic, flat-water activities, such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on the river’s calm, flowing waters. The center plays host to festivals, camps and live music throughout the summer, so be sure to make a visit.
For an action-packed afternoon on Lake Norman, rent a Jet Ski or ski boat from Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals and Boat Club. Jet Skis are available to rent for only an hour or for a full week or weekend. Aquaventure also rents yachts, kayaks and paddleboards and all of the necessary accessories for fun on the water: ski vests, towlines, tubes, wakeboards, water skis and knee boards. If you’re interested in a long-term commitment, check out Aquaventure’s boat club membership.Started in 2010, My Aloha Paddle and Surf is spreading SUP’s popularity throughout the Lake Norman community—it even has a new location in Belmont on the Catawba River. The company rents kayaks and paddleboards and specializes in paddleboard instruction. Aloha instructors teach private and group lessons for as many as 24 people. Instruction includes water safety tips and techniques for paddling and turning. Specialty classes include SUP yoga and nighttime paddleboarding tours.
Life of Leisure
Catawba River Expeditions leads kayaking, canoeing and tubing trips on the Catawba River. The company is based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, about 30 minutes south of Uptown Charlotte. Trip options include both easy and challenging canoe and kayak routes. Tubing is great for a group. For a particularly scenic experience, paddle through Landsford Canal State Park and see the rare Rocky Shoals spider lilies. The company requires 24-hour notice for reservations.
Queen’s Landing offers afternoon sightseeing and evening dinner cruises on Lake Norman. Its fleet includes a Mississippi riverboat called “Catawba Queen” and a luxury yacht called “Lady of the Lake.” Choose a buffet-style meal or a four-course, plated dinner. Queen’s Landing offers special events throughout the year, such as live music and themed cruises for the holidays.
Lake Norman State Park encompasses 13 miles of shoreline along the banks of Lake Norman. Boaters can use the boat launch to access the lake; pedal boats and canoes are also available to rent. The park has a 125-yard-long sand beach that rims the swimming area. Fishing is a popular activity, whether by boat or off the pier. Crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and bass are common fish in the area.
For the Youngsters (or young at heart)
Carowinds amusement park gets hot in the summer. After hitting the coasters, cool off in Carolina Harbor. Drift on the waves at Surf Club Harbor, splash around in kid-friendly Myrtle Turtle Beach and Kitty Hawk Cove or brave Blackbeard’s Revenge, a six-story slide. Specific children’s areas ensure the younger ones have fun and stay safe. For those planning to make many return visits, don’t miss out on a season pass.
For a minivacation, visit Great Wolf Lodge, about 20 minutes northeast of Charlotte in Concord. The centerpiece of this all-in-one destination is an indoor water park for guests. Four-story and six-story waterslides provide adventure for the older kids while minislides and splash pools keep the younger ones busy. Everything is wilderness themed, from the interactive treehouse to the cabin-like rooms, making for a real adventure. And a spa, great dining options and convenience to Rocky River Golf Club, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills outlet mall takes care of Mom and Dad.
In Charlotte, Ray’s Splash Planet provides an affordable, convenient water park experience for the little ones. Located on the campus of Irwin Academic Center, the indoor water park and fitness center is a joint effort of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The facility includes a three-story slide, lazy river and splash features.
If you only have a few hours to spare, have some fun in the sun at one of the city’s “spraygrounds.” Charlotte’s “spraygrounds” feature unique sprays, nozzles and spouts to keep you cool on those hot summer days. Visit Cordelia Park in NoDa, Latta Park on Park Avenue, Veterans Park on Central Avenue, Nevin Park in North Charlotte, the West Charlotte Recreation Center or the Fish Fountains on The Green in Uptown for a day of refreshing fun. Most of the “spraygrounds” are open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the summer. They are free and easily accessible.
This article ran in the June 2015 issue of Happenings. Updated by Schuyler Pringle and Beth Castle in June 2017.